Sudanese-born Canadian May Fly Home on Friday (updated)
[Abyei Town, Abyei Transitional Area, Sudan 40°C] Abousfian Abdelrazik is a man from Montréal whose been living in ‘temporary safe haven’ in the Canadian Embassy in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, since late April 2008. He has been in Sudan since March 2003, when he went to visit his mother. According to a timeline of his case, Abdelrazik was arrested six months later and detained for ten months before being released.
Documents obtained under the Privacy Act (.pdf 169Mb or ZIP 52Mb) and available from the website of the People’s Commission on Immigration Security Measures indicate that Mr. Abdelrazik, a Canadian citizen, was incarcerated in Sudan on the request of Canadian officials. While in prison in December 2003, he was interrogated by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). Since his release in July 2006, he has been blocked from returning home to Montréal.
Mr. Abdelrazik’s family lives in Montréal and has not seen him since he left for Sudan in 2003. Human rights activists and citizens groups have began a public campaign to repatriate Abousfian Abdelrazik. Project Fly Home, raised enough funds from at least 171 Canadian citizens to purchase a airline ticket to take Abdelrazik back to Canada. His ticket is scheduled for April 3, 2009.
UPDATE: Abousfian returned home to Montréal on Saturday June 27, 2009 around midnight after a six-year forced exile in Sudan, where he experienced torture, imprisonment without trial, and over one year trapped in the Canadian embassy. All with the involvement of Canadian officials.
– Abdelrazik pleads to clear his name: ‘I want to live like a normal Canadian — G&M July 24, 2009
– Abdelrazik ‘very glad to come back home’ — CBC June 27, 2009
Below is a timeline taken from the ‘Project Fly Home’ campaign organizers:
Mr. Absoufian Abdelrazik, flees the violence of a civil war and coup in Sudan, arrives in Canada and is granted political refugee status.
Mr. Absoufian Abdelrazik becomes a Canadian citizen.
After the arrest of Ahmed Ressam, the millennium bomber, Mr. Abdelrazik and other Muslims living in Montreal come under close surveillance by Canadian counter-terrorism agents. Mr. Abdelrazik says it amounts to harassment so severe that he calls the Montreal police for help. He is never charged with any crime, denies any connection with al-Qaeda and testifies for the prosecution at Mr. Ressam’s trial.
MARCH 23: He arrives in Khartoum from Montréal, travelling on his Canadian passport to visit his mother.
SEPTEMBER 12: Mr. Abdelrazik is arrested and imprisoned by Sudan.
DECEMBER: Interrogated by people he identifies as “Canadians” while in prison. Mr. Abdelrazik says he was repeatedly beaten and tortured. In an affidavit this year, he admits to telling his interrogators “what they wanted to hear.”
JULY: Mr. Abdelrazik is released from prison after 11 months. He was expected to fly home to Canada with a Lufthansa-Air Canada ticket paid for by his family. A Canadian diplomat was to escort him on temporary travel papers because his passport had expired.
JULY 23: The flight home is scrapped at the last minute when Air Canada and Lufthansa refuse to carry him on the grounds that he has been added to the U.S. no-fly list, even through routing doesn’t involve a U.S. stop. Mr. Abdelrazik is not told about the U.S. no- fly list but is told that the government of Canada is powerless to tell airlines to transport him. He’s required to live in a police-owned and monitored house.
JULY 29: In DFA Case Note 123, senior consular official Odette Gaudet-Fee, says when Mr. Abdelrazik’s wife inquired about chartering a private plane, she was told that the government would not pay for this.
SEPTEMBER 29: Senior Sudan official warns Canadian diplomats that “Sudan realized however that keeping an innocent man in detention was a human-rights violation. So far, they had prevented him from having access to news media and HR organizations but this could not go on forever. He thought that protest and public attention to this story would impact adversely on both our countries. In particular, it would tarnish Canada’s reputation in Arab countries.”
OCTOBER 10: Sudan offers a private aircraft to get Abdelrzik to Canada if Canada will contribute to costs and provide escorts.
OCTOBER 31: Canada is not prepared to contribute to the cost of the flight and also not prepared to provide an escort for Mr. Abdelrazik on the flight.
NOVEMBER 24:Then-PM Paul Martin arrives in Khartoum on a Canadian military Airbus with seating for more than 150. Embassy officials thwart Mr. Abdelrazik’s efforts to meet with PM and the aircraft leaves with scores of empty seats. A senior official travelling with the prime minister meets Mr. Abdelrazik.
APRIL 13: Canada’s senior diplomat in Sudan agrees to tell Mr. Abdelrazik “I can assure you that the Govt of Canada has had no involvement whatsoever in any decision to place your name on such lists.”
MAY 9: Senior Foreign Affairs diplomat warns that Mr. Abdelrazik “has reached the end of his rope, he has no money, no future, very little freedom and no hope. Should this case break wide open in the media, we may have a lot of explaining to do.”
JULY 26: Sudan Minister of Justice issues Mr. Abdelrazik a formal document exonerating him. We “did not find any evidence'” linking him to terrorism or crime or al-Qaeda.
OCTOBER 5: With a Canadian delegation scheduled to visit, Mr. Abdelrazik is arrested again and detained, without charge. Canadian consular access is denied. But an undated and heavily redacted Canadian Foreign Affairs document marked secret and carrying a CSIS stamp says he was imprisoned “at our request,” but it isn’t clear whether that was the first, second or both times.
DECEMBER 16: In a cable marked secret, diplomats warn Ottawa that “further delay in this case risks the perception of complacency on the part of the Government should this case become public, especially given our repeated observations regarding Mr. Abdelrazikis increasingly desperate frame of mind.”
JULY 20: He is released from prison after 10 months as the Sudanese say they cannot hold an “innocent” man. A Canadian diplomat, in a message to Ottawa, says he “appears to be a broken man,” but Ottawa tells diplomats to tell Mr. Abdelrazik they won’t give him a passport or travel documents.
JULY 23: The United States formally designates him a terrorist “for his high-level ties to and support for the al-Qaeda.”
JULY 31: He’s added to UN Security Council terrorist no-fly blacklist by the U.S. All his personal assets are frozen. The ban, however, specifically exempts travel for return to the country of citizenship, for the fulfillment of a judicial process and for other justifications (such as for medical and religious purposes) if allowed by the U.N.
DECEMBER 16: A secret document sent from Khartoum to senior Foreign Affairs and security officials in Ottawa says, “Abousfian Abdelrazik was arrested on September 10, 2003 [word blacked out] recommendation by CSIS, for suspected involvement with terrorist elements.”
MAY 15: Mr. Abdelrazik is called by the Sudanese secret police for an interrogation by a visiting FBI anti-terrorist team. He asks for Canadian consular help, but Ottawa expresslyforbids diplomats in Khartoum to escort him. After the interrogation, Canadian diplomats report to Ottawa that Mr. Abdelrazik was told that “he will never return to Canada” unless he co-operates fully.
NOVEMBER 6: In the process of examining Aboudelrazik’s request for de-listing from the U.N. list, CSIS declared that it had “no current substantial information regarding Mr. Abdelrazik”.
NOVEMBER 15: RCMP anti-terrorism branch formally tells Harper government that it has “conducted a review of its files and was unable to locate any current and substantive information that indicates Mr. Abdelrazik is involved in criminal activity.”
FEBRUARY 22: Despite RCMP’s exoneration, CSIS’s most recent terrorist update summary still says Abdelrazik received training at the Khalden camp in Afghanistan in 1996 and is important Islamic Jihad activist.”
MARCH 25: Maxime Bernier, the Canadian foreign minister, visits Khartoum. His chief of staff and MP Deepak Obhrai meet with Mr. Abdelrazik, who lifts his shirt to show scars that he says were from torture and beatings while in prison.
APRIL: Sean Robertson, a senior foreign affairs official, formally writes to Mr. Abdelrazik’s lawyers assuring them that the government of Canada had already “transmitted our support for Mr. Abdelrazik’s de−listing request to the 1267 Committee,” (the Security Council resolution bearing that number that blacklists known al−Qaeda members).
APRIL 18: Sean Robinson, director of consular affairs in the Department of Foreign Affairs, confirms in writing that “we stand by the commitment” to “ensure that [Mr. Abdelrazik] has an emergency travel document to facilitate his return to Canada.”
APRIL 20: Senior Transport Canada intelligence and security officials, in a classified document say, “Senior government of Canada officials should be mindful of the potential reaction of our U.S. counterparts to Abdelrazik’s return to Canada as he is on the U.S. no-fly list.” Transport Canada documents state it was the U.S. no-fly lists that prevented Mr. Abdelrazik’s return to Canada when he was released from prison in July 2005.
APRIL 29: Mr. Abdelrazik seeks refuge in the Canadian embassy in Khartoum. Mr. Bernier grants him “temporary safe haven,” suggesting that he poses no threat to the embassy but may be at risk of re-imprisonment in Sudan.
SEPTEMBER 15: Etihad Airlines agrees to fly Mr. Abdelrazik from Khartoum to Toronto via Abu Dhabi on this date. The Canadian government fails to deliver on its promise, first made in 2004, that Mr. Abdelrazik, like all Canadian citizens, is entitled to emergency travel documents to return home.
DECEMBER 23: Passport Canada adds a new condition – a fully paid-for ticket, not just a confirmed reservation – must be presented before Mr. Abdelrazik will be issued emergency travel documents. Mr. Abdelrazik is destitute. The government says it must seize his assets and anyone who gives him any money is committing a crime.
MARCH 12: One hundred and sixteen Canadians break federal law by contributing towards the purchase of a plane ticket for Mr. Abdelrazik with a departure date set for April 3. The government has untilthen to issue travel documents.
(Most of this timeline appears in a March 5, 2009 article entitled “Exiled in Khartoum: CSIS asked Sudan to arrest Canadian, files reveal” written by Globe and Mail Correspondent Paul Koring. Additional sources, Globe and Mail.)
MARCH 20: CSIS posted a request on its website asking SIRC to investigate its role in Mr. Abdelrazik’s detention in Sudan, hoping to clear itself of allegations that it had acted inappropriately.
MARCH 27: Minister of Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon says Mr. Abdelrazik must have his name removed from the 1267 UN no-fly list before the government will issue travel documents.
APRIL 3: On the day Mr. Abdelrazik is booked to fly home, Minister Cannon uses his discretionary powers under the Canadian Passport Order to bar Mr. Abdelrazik from coming home. He continues to wait in the Canadian embassy in Khartoum.
APRIL 28: One year anniversary of Mr. Abdelrazik’s “temporary safe haven” in Canadian embassy in Khartoum.
MAY 7: Court hearing begins in Ottawa where Mr. Abdelrazik is seeking a mandatory order to compel the government to bring him back “on any safe means at its disposal.” The motion is based on section 6 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms which states, “Every citizen of Canada has the right to enter, remain in and leave Canada.”